a little visit underground | clapham south.

hidden london clapham south bloghidden london clapham south blog

I have a slight confession to make, a sort of guilty pleasure if you will, and that is that I'm a massive transport geek. Now you won't find me on a train platform taking photos with a little notebook recording S-stock London Midland trains coming in and out of Birmingham New Street, but I doubt you'll be able to tell me a little fact about the tube network I haven't heard before. I know which stations were abandoned, I know about the various disasters and mysterious, which stations are supposedly haunted and which areas of London have dummy houses hiding the lines. I've read books about tube lines and am secretly jealous of people who've walked all the tube lines.

And then the news reported that they'd be opening up Clapham South station for tours and I knew I had to join in. Partly because of the whole transport geek thing and partly because I live in Clapham. I don't know where the line is below my house, but it must be pretty close because I can pick up the tube's wifi from my bedroom, and sometimes hear the tubes rumbling below me at night. It took me ages to get a ticket - it turns out there are quite a few people in London who want to go underground and we did have to wait quite a long time to get on our tour. 

hidden london clapham south blog

hidden london clapham south blog
Clapham South tube has one of the only purpose built air raid shelters which the public can still access. Before this, Londoners had been using tube stations on the platforms, until a bomb hit the Balham station killing 66 people and then Bank station killing 111 people. The government realised they had to do something and started building underground shelters - without telling anyone what they were doing. Mounds of earth appeared on Clapham Common, and because it was during the Second World War, no one questioned where all the earth had come from or why it had been dumped on the Common. 

We headed down hundreds of circled steps to the sound of the air raid sirens - a little cheesy but it did make me think about all of the people who'd had to run down those steps before me genuinely fearing for their lives and homes. When we finally reached the bottom, we were greeted by our guide and a mass of tunnels which seemed to stretch on forever. It was impossible to work out where you were in relation to the ground above - every time we tried to work out which direction Balham or Clapham Common was, we got it wrong. 

The shelters had room for 8,000 people, all of whom had a bunk. There were kitchens, a medical room, toilets and a game room. You had to bring your own stuff up and down with you each night - and believe me, after hauling my fat bum up the stairs at the end of the tour, I wouldn't have been wanting to do that holding clothes and a duvet. Having said that, the only time you got to keep your belongings down there during the day was if your house got bombed. So maybe I'd have picked the slightly exhausting option...

hidden london clapham south blog

hidden london clapham south blog

I learnt that the shelters were later used to house soldiers, as a cheap hostel during the Festival of Britain in 1951 and also as a stop for those who came to England on the Empire Windrush - and is partly why Brixton is so multi-cultural to this day, as the nearest job centre to the tube station was in Brixton. 

Similar tunnels in Clapham Common are being used for storage, tunnels in Clapham North are being used to grow vegetables and herbs in controlled conditions which I think is pretty awesome. Even though the tunnels aren't often open to the public these days, if you do get a chance to do and see them, take it! The guides were so enthusiastic and even though the tour wasn't cheap, I feel like I got value for every penny. I'm already looking into taking another trip down to other stations, like Down Street. If you're a bit of a tube geek like me, or into your London history, you'll find it hard to join a more interesting tour. 

limoncello macaons | the macaron disaster diary

limoncello macarons london lifestyle blog

It hasn't been all that long since I last featured my macaron failures, but the bloody things are frustrating me so much that I have essentially been trying to make them every weekend. The amount of egg whites and ground almonds I've been through in the past month is almost criminal. Only a few things are keeping me sane in the process of making macarons and that's that sometimes the people who do this for a living find it as hard as me to make them (I'm looking at you Juniper Cakery...) and secondly, is that even macaron failures taste pretty edible good even if they do look a little bit pants. 

Unlike last time, my issue wasn't the browning of the colour on the top of the macaron. I've recently invested in some pretty awesome food colouring, and they've withstood the oven a little better than previously. Not to mention I pretty much sat on the floor of the kitchen staring into the oven à la Bake Off so that they wouldn't brown. We'll just ignore the previous batch that I accidentally grilled, yep? They're still not smooth and I really am going to have to take my own advice and start to blitz the crap out of my dry ingredients before they go into the wet ingredients. But you know, progress is being made. Maybe? And at least I'm getting the fillings right each time. 

I wanted to document each failure until I got it wrong. Honestly, when I first started making macarons a few years ago I had no idea they were this difficult, and that was just from me reading blogs and being naive. I don't think it harms anyone to see that everything isn't always perfect. 

limoncello macarons london lifestyle blog

Lemon is one of my favourite flavours to use in cakes, but I never really use limoncello. I don't know why this is, but I do think it might have something to do with one of my earliest memories of going on holiday to Sorrento in Italy and being dragged on a limoncello tasting tour. I was nowhere near old enough to drink and found the whole thing to be incredibly dull. I vividly remember being given an almond to eat on the tour too and hating it, and my brain brings up the almond hatred each time I think of limoncello. It's funny how the brain works. I think I'd quite like a limoncello tasting tour these days...

I don't know about you though, but everyone seems to have a bottle of limoncello hiding away in a cupboard somewhere, whether it's because of someone else's trip to Italy or because they once needed a drop for a cocktail, and I've found that rather than drinking it, I'd rather be whacking it into a bake. 

So here's a quick and easy recipe for limoncello buttercream, which can easily be used on cakes, and not just rubbish macarons 


90g butter softened
300g soft cheese
100g icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons limoncello 


Beat the butter until it's really soft
Add in the icing sugar and cream cheese
Beat until it becomes smooth and glossy
Add in the limoncello
You can add in a little more limoncello if you think the icing can handle it!

As always, tips are welcome!

a little trip to st aubin | jersey

st aubin london lifestyle travel jersey blog

st aubin london lifestyle travel jersey blog
 st aubin london lifestyle travel jersey blog

It's been a while since I carped on about being in Jersey (you can my trip to Rozel here), so why not go for another one? Even though these photos were taken in the middle of summer, they look slightly more like they belong to November anyway, thanks to the fact it was tipping it down when we arrived. When I first went to Jersey - I must have been about twelve - we went for two weeks and I can only remember it being boiling hot and getting sun burnt because we spent every minute of the day running around on the beach. The last two times I've been back it's been a real mix, but always with some form of bad weather, whether that's fog or rain. Also, St Aubin is supposed to be one of the warmest parts of the island. Pretty typical of my bad luck!

st aubin london lifestyle travel jersey blog

st aubin london lifestyle travel jersey blog

St Aubin was a part of Jersey I'd only ever been through on the bus and pretty much only because it's on the way to my favourite restaurant on the island (Oyster Box, in case you were wondering -  the best food on the island and you can really understand why it can be so difficult to get a reservation in there!). I'd always wanted to get off the bus and have a look around, the harbour always looked inviting and colourful, so finally I made some time to get off my bum and explore. If it hadn't been raining, then it would have been possible to walk along the beach from the capital in St Helier, and if you're more of a kid at heart there's a small train which goes along the beach from St Helier to St Aubin. 

st aubin london lifestyle travel jersey blog

st aubin london lifestyle travel jersey blog

St Aubin is probably one of the busier parts of Jersey (which is saying something) - clearly it's not as busy as St Helier, but is much prettier than St Helier, which personally, I think is lacking in any sort of character at all. That means there's plenty of small shops to explore, restaurants and pubs to visit - unlike in some areas of Jersey where you can go to the beach and have the grand old choice of one place to go to if you want a drink or a sarnie afterwards. Having said that, it's pretty easy to get away from the crowds too - you can take a walk over to the fort (if the tide it out far enough) or you can head up along the cobbled streets into the hills - bonus points if you take this option because you get quite the view from the top of the hills and because who doesn't like pretty colourful houses? Notting Hill - eat your heart out.

Let me know if you head over to Jersey at any point, or if you've been and can give some more tips!

lemon & lavender drizzle cake

You'll have to forgive me. Ever since I found a place which sells lavender and rose and whatever else, I have become obsessed with finding recipes which use all of the edible flowers and my blog is soon to be groaning under the weight of them all, not to mention the baking box where I keep all of my baking junk, which is balanced on top of the fridge with the alcohol. It's piled so high that one day I will come home from work to find angry housemates, smashed bottles of gin and I'll wonder why I didn't just go to Ikea for storage sooner...

And so we come to this lemon and lavender drizzle cake. And I know, drizzle cake is hardly about to set the cake world on fire, but they are so easy to make and lemon drizzle is such a classic - and hey, classics are classics for a reason. Plus this cake comes with one massive benefit, which is that when you make the crystallised lemon slices, the lemony sugar syrup which is left over is perfect for making a Bramble cocktail. So cake and cocktails? Win win really. 

Let's just ignore the fact that this looks off centre and the icing went a little wrong. It wouldn't be a cake I'd made if something hadn't gone wrong with it...



225g butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
225g self-raising flour
1 teapsoon of lavender


Juice 1½ lemons
85g caster sugar


Icing sugar
2 teaspoons of lavender

Candied lemon:

3 slices of lemon
150g caster sugar
170ml water



Heat oven to 180C.
Beat together 225g butter and 225g caster sugar until pale and creamy.
Add 4 eggs slowly, bit by bit
Sift in 225g flour
Add grated zest of 1 lemon
In a pesltle and mortar, crush the lavendar and add to the mix
Mix well until combined
Line a loaf tin then spoon in the mixture and level the top
Bake for 45-50 mins

While the cake is cooling in its tin, mix together the juice of 1 1/2 lemons and 85g caster sugar to make the drizzle
Prick the warm cake all over then pour over the drizzle
Leave in the tin until completely cool


Mix icing sugar and water to desired thickness and slather over
Decorate with lavender
Candied lemon:

Combine the water with the sugar in a saucepan
Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 5 minutes
Add the lemon slices and simmer for another 5 minutes
When the slices have become transparentish, remove the slices
Dry on grease-proof paper
Place on top of cake

10 things you'll recognise if you're on a job hunt

When I first started working in Parliament and I went on a tour of the Palace of Westminster, I was told that if I didn't look at everything like it was one of the most special buildings in the world, then it was probably time for me to leave. And even though I thought that it would never be possible, because lets face it, the building is incredible, I can now walk past central lobby without giving it much of a second thought. When we have work experience guys in our office, or interns who tell me how much they'd love to work here and I don't feel the same excitement, I just feel guilty. So, I think, my time has come. The job hunt has begun. 

I'd be lying if I said I was taking it really seriously - I'm sticking it out until I can find a job I really want to move to. Having made a job move mistake once in my life, I'm pretty determined not do it again. I'm in no desperate need to move, and I'm not unemployed. There are still pockets of enjoyment to be found in this job, just not as many as there once were. My hands are itching for a new change, for something challenging. It's not just interview speak, I really mean it. Eeek

Here are a few observations on the job hunt so far:

Updating a CV is pretty miserable. From now on, I'll be updating it throughout the year, instead of desperately trying to remember all the "skill improving" things I've been up to. 

Writing a cover letter is even worse, and completely goes against my natural tendency to chat shit about myself even though I don't really mean it. 

I have to constantly remind myself that nothing can be as bad as the time I was unemployed after University. There are very few jobs which is worse than being unemployed for 8+ months. 

My LinkedIn is now being viewed by some of the most random recruiters I have ever seen, which only leads me to think they fell down an internet black hole when they landed on my profile. 

Even worse, I now have to log in to LinkedIn every day and see those bloody awful motivational posts, and wonder why someone who works down the corridor to me and does the exact same job as me describes himself as a "political thinker" in his job title. No mate

This extra LinkedIn searching has found me turning a bit green eyed. That girl that once volunteered in my team and came in hungover every day has got that amazing job? Sweet Lord tell me how. 

A non-existent interview is a good excuse to spend a lot of time flicking through ASOS in an attempt to find that perfect interview dress. Gotta look up to it right? 

I have become obsessed with refreshing job advertising websites. Obsessed. Even though I now know when they update and can pretty much guarantee I won't even look twice at the 90% of job adverts

I have re-considered putting my law degree to use. Even though I can't afford to go back to University to do my LPC and even though the three years of law at Uni made me never ever want to study it ever again, I still think what if?

I have genuinely worried about the sanity of some employers. You're advertising an "amazing" position for £16K in London for someone with experience? Hmm...

Anyone else?!
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